Princess Wisdom, known as Dizzy, longs for a life of excitement beyond the staid old kingdom of Montagne.
Tips, a soldier, longs to keep his true identity a secret.
Fortitude, an orphaned maid, longs only for Tips.
These three souls might possibly attain their dreams while preserving their empire from ruin — if they can bear each other’s company long enough to devise a plan.
Romance and adventure join forces in this hilarious tale told in diaries, letters, an encyclopedia, and even a play.
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A handful of reviews
★ Richly developed characters, humor, exciting plot twists, and, of course, magic combine to craft a . . . witty, whimsical fantasy. Exceptional!” School Library Journal (starred review)
★ “Packed with double entendres, humorous dialogue and situations, and a black cat that will capture the reader’s imagination, this is a joyful, timeless fantasy that teens will savor.” Booklist (starred review)
★ “The deft craftsmanship of each section develops character and elegantly marries form and substance.” Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books (starred review)
“[Murdock] gleefully turns tradition on its head . . . a rollicking and witty tale.” Horn Book
“Best of all . . . it's HILARIOUS.” Word Thief
Questions from Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Dairy Queen was inspired by your dream of a girl playing football. Princess Ben came from a dream about a girl leaping out of a window. Did a dream spark Wisdom’s Kiss?
I wish! No, this book I had to write the old-fashioned way: I made it up.
Why the eight points of view?
I had intended a simple, traditional novel. But I wanted the three perspectives of a boy, plus the two girls who love him. Letters seemed useful given that the boy had secrets. The problem, I discovered almost immediately, was that these three formats of letters, diary and memoir totally cramped my narration. I therefore added a play to describe important conversations, as well as Tips’s master’s memoirs to describe Tips. The genealogy and court etiquette seemed so didactic that I decided to unleash my inner dork in an encyclopedia. The oyster incident needed better rendering than Dizzy could provide, which led to Ben’s letters. And pondering Wilhelmina’s motivation got me her ghastly Gentle Reflections.
So it was a very organic process, and remarkably plot driven: to accomplish scene x, I needed the perspective (and often the bias or ignorance) of character y. It was rather like assembling a mobile, hanging one element and then racing to counterbalance it, watching this construction swell while growing ever more fearful that it would all come crashing down. The whole time, I kept telling myself that no one would ever want to read it — but I was having so much fun, I didn’t care! I’m still awed that the book actually got published.
Did you always intend to write a sequel to Princess Ben?
Whoa, Nelly, stop right there. Wisdom’s Kiss is not a sequel. No way, no how, never. It is at best a consequence (my term; very Montagne-y) of Princess Ben, but that’s as far as it goes. No one needs an iota of familiarity with one to enjoy the other. I hope reviewers won’t even mention the connection so readers who are familiar with Princess Ben can discover for themselves that this charming old grandmother is none other than Ben herself, all grown up.
How did Puss in Boots end up in Wisdom’s Kiss? Was that always your plan?
Princess Ben has many fairy-tale references, and I wanted to do the same in Wisdom’s Kiss. I’ve always loved “Puss in Boots,” yet when I reread Fred Marcellino’s lovely edition, I was mostly struck by Puss’s narcissism. Why not distill that feline egotism to its ridiculous extreme, add oblique versions of the other characters, and get myself a knockout ending in the bargain? I compose a book’s last sentence quite early in my writing process, so I’ll be forever grateful that Felis and Fred Marcellino and Charles Perrault (who wrote the original fairy tale in 1697) provided me with an endpoint to aim for.
At the end of it all, who’s your favorite character?
Escoffier. He’s based on our cat Charcoal, who is equally affectionate and vain.
Questions for readers
• “Truth requires many voices, for it is a relentless foe but a most unobliging mistress.” Why does this epigraph open Wisdom’s Kiss?
• I think we can agree Wisdom’s Kiss has an unusual format. How does this format contribute to the overall story? How would the story differ if it were told from only one point of view? Which point of view would that be?
• Wilhelmina is a truly awful person. What are some illustrations of this? What in her upbringing might have made her so?
• Felis el Gato is also awful, in his own charming way. What do his personality and writing style contribute to Wisdom’s Kiss? How would the book differ without him?
• How did you think the romance between Trudy and Tips would evolve? Why do you think it ended as it did?
What’s your feeling on oysters?